ECCC 2019: Marvel’s Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends Panel Reminds Us That Anyone Can Wear The Symbiote

by Noah Sharma

Marvel’s Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends panel was manned by Seanan McGuire (writer of Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider), Jason Latour (Spider-Gwen creator and writer of Amazing Spider-Man Annual), and Donny Cates (writer of Venom, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Silver Surfer: Black miniseries Marvel announced earlier that morning) with moderator Alanna Smith of Marvel’s Avengers office.
Cates was asked about bringing Venom into the spotlight and exploring his mythology. Cates took over Venom on the eve of the character’s 30th anniversary and he has been reading about Venom since the beginning. Ever since he’s had questions about who Eddie Brock is and where exactly symbiotes come from and, strangely, many of them still haven’t been answered. Cates says that he really wanted to get Venom out of Spider-Man’s shadow.
Cates explained the mythology of Knull and how he existed before there was light or matter. The symbioses are his creations, lifeforms made from Knull’s abyss. “God is coming,” warned Cates and now Venom is caught within Knull’s plans to revive himself. It’s all leading to something big that Cates will announce next weekend!

Primary cover by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin

Cates really wants to reestablish the symbiote and Eddie Brock. With Peter Parker you always know why he does what he does, but you never saw that moment for Eddie. You know that he felt strongly about protecting the innocent, but his motivations and his life before the symbiote have always been vague. That backstory is the core of “The Abyss” the second arc of the Venom ongoing series.
Speaking of symbiotes, Spider-Gwen is also bonded to a symbiote, her universe’s version of Venom. This symbiote is actually an artificial lifeform, created on Earth, but McGuire noted that it’s entirely possible that this creature might have been created from an alien symbiote. Despite the grandeur of Cates’ story, Gwenom has, mostly been using the symbiote to save on her laundry bill, taking full advantage of its shapeshifting abilities, as McGuire promised she would if she had a symbiote. This led Smith to ask the other panelists what they’d do with a symbiote. “I would turn evil almost immediately,” answered Cates without a moment’s hesitation. Seemingly inspired by Cates, Latour answered that he’d make his symbiote draw Southern Bastards for him.
“Venom is at its best when it’s a metaphor for addiction,” said Cates. Every day Eddie wakes up and doesn’t know if he’s a good person or a bad one, but he tries not to endorse the bad things inside him.
Eddie Brock recently discovered that he has a son. That son, Dylan, believes that he’s just Eddie’s younger brother, but Eddie has realized that this is not so. We’re about to learn some serious things about Dylan; Cates urged readers to particularly look at the third panel on page 2 of issue #12. Dylan definitely plays a role not only in Eddie’s life but the greater Venom mythos.
Latour was brought in to work on Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse during production to help clarify Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham. Having almost pursued animation, it was very serendipitous for Latour that Spider-Gwen’s first feature film adaptation was all about alternate lives. He said that “When we started coming up with Gwen, I wanted to create a character that made people half as excited as I felt watching Batman: The Animated Series.”
Latour called Enter the Spider-Verse an embrace of the comic book medium. Even overlooking the huge and important strides for representation that he sees in the film, he believes Spider-Verse is going to inspire a huge number of artists and do incredible things for the medium thanks to the film’s staunch position that there is no part of comics that it is ashamed of.

McGuire revealed that she had very intentionally not read the Spider-Gwen comics before taking over the book. The death of Gwen Stacy was the first trauma of McGuire’s comic reading life. Gwen had been the character that she identified with – a thoughtful, outspoken girl who did her homework instead of partying. – and, when she died, she had to put Amazing Spider-Man down. Then when Spider-Gwen was introduced she refused to hope. Everyone told her about it, but she couldn’t trust that they wouldn’t “throw her off a bridge again”. She couldn’t shake that feeling even as she started to hear about Marvel: Rising and Enter the Spider-Verse, but she still broke down in tears when she got offered to write her favorite character.
McGuire joked that she has been struggling to deal with the fallout of Latour’s Spider-Gwen run, where she was sent to prison and unmasked. McGuire loves thinking about what that does to someone’s insurance alone. She also says that she adores the trope of superpowers burning an incredible number of calories so that’s been something she’s enjoyed playing with.
Issue #10 is the 100th total issue of Spider-Gwen. McGuire has asked for a lot of crazy Earth-65 versions of characters, but she was certain that her villain for Spider-Gwen #10 was going to be rejected. When it wasn’t, she realized that her artist, Takeshi Miyazawa, is going to kill her.
Cates has always wanted to write a scene where a horde of symbiotes try to take over Thanos and just “shiver off him” after seeing into his mind. Cates promises that there exists a concept in the Venom lore that he is adding that will blow your mind with how natural and obvious is, but he couldn’t say too much more. Part of the evil symbiote dragon, the Grendel, was taken from it by the Maker, the evil Ultimate Reed Richards, before being stolen by a Knull cult. They attached that symbiote to the corpse of Cletus Cassidy. The resulting Dark Carnage is searching for the codices, genetic memories of symbiote-host pairs, to repair the Grendel symbiote fully. That means he’s going after everyone to ever host a symbiote. “I’m not going to leave Venom without doing some wild 90s Carnage stuff,” said Cates.
To that point, though there is a safe way to access the codices left in symbiote host DNA, Carnage is just going to rip people’s spines out, something that Latour referred to as the Predator approach. Speaking of Predator, Cates recalled pitching the Rex Strickland concept at a Marvel retreat. Jason Aaron rarely speaks at these events but suddenly mumbled something at the concept of a symbiote being used against the Viet Cong. “Ve’Nam…”
“What? What! What did you just say!? Did you just say Ve’Nam…out loud!?,” Cates shot back, “And we joked about it in the room and then later I got a call from C.B., our Editor in Chief, and he like ‘do you want to do that? Do you want to do Ve’Nam?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! I sure do!”
Primary cover by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin

The Web of Venom: Ve’Nam one-shot released in the middle of last year. Having been asked to describe the book, Cates explained how Knull would take control of the subjects in a prototype symbiote military trial and Wolverine and Nick Fury would be sent in to hunt them. “That’s dope!” Cates remembered the questioner responding. “Uh yeah, It’s Predator!”
The panel was then asked about what the artists brought to the various series.
Cates and Ryan Steggman have really had quite a love connection. Stegman even told him “I will do whatever it takes for this be you and me from the beginning to the end.” That devotion meant a lot to Cates. So many comics are thought of as a writer’s project – Jason Aaron’s Thor – but there are a few that belong to writers and artists – Snyder and Capullo’s Batman – and Cates is excited to hear people referring to Stegman and Cates’ Venom.
Latour said that so many of the great Spider-artists are broken and weird, they lie on the edge of ‘too strange’. So when it came time to make Spider-Gwen Latour wanted to focus on achieving that energy. A huge fan of the original character, Latour was nervous that the character wouldn’t work when it was pitched to him. He knew that the original Spider-Gwen one-shot wasn’t a book that he, Robbie Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi brought good representation to, but they had a philosophy of “breaking things” and he felt strongly that this was essential to Gwen’s success.
Latour said that there are “sword schools” in comics and seeing Enter the Spider-Verse was seeing his school succeed.

McGuire has not had very much input on who she’s worked with, being new to the comics world. She considers herself very lucky to have been connected with the artists she has worked with. Perhaps the strongest example of that gratitude, came from issue #4 of Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider, an issue centered around burying and making peace with the casualties of “Spider-Geddon”. In that issue, there’s a scene in the nightclub owned by the Felicia Hardy of Earth 90214 (Spider-Man: Noir) and all of the cats in the scene are Marvel employees’ cats that had died within the last year. “We got to give our girls a soft place to rest,” McGuire said with a sigh, going on to say that if she had been fired after that issue it would have been ok because her cat was canonically alive and well in the Marvel universe. So that is one thing (far from the only thing) that Rosi Kämpe brought to McGuire’s story.
Interior art from Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #4 by Rosi Kämpe, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ian Herring

McGuire was also asked about the adjustment from the solitary act of writing novels to the collaborative process of comic writing. She adores it and specifically highlighted its effect on representation. In prose, you may write a diverse and realistic world, but unless you are explicit (sometimes even if you are) the reader might assume that every character is a skinny white man. But in comics you have a partner who can ensure that diversity survives into the received work without having to include a paragraph for each character describing their visible identities.
Latour refused to let the panel go to questions before he hyped Spider-Ham. He’s been trying to get a Spider-Ham book for a decade. This summer’s Spider-Man Annual is 30 pages of Spider-Ham and it’s possibly the thing Latour’s proudest of. The backup is still a secret but it will be loved by fans of Enter the Spider-Verse.
Cover by David LaFuente and Rico Renzi

The first question came from a dyslexic man who loves comics but can’t read well enough to understand them comfortably. He asked if Marvel thought of including some form of auditory aid with the comics. The panel couldn’t confirm anything but stated that it is a valid and important complaint and urged him to look at Marvel’s motion comics and audio dramas in the meanwhile.
Asked about how they handle continuity, Cates answered for the panel that he will always “go for the moment” over obeying continuity.
The next questioner asked which villain the panelists would make Earth’s greatest good guy on an alternate Earth. McGuire had a clear opinion. “Emma. Frost. Because she’s already Marvel’s greatest good guy and YOU NEED TO STOP.”
Latour had trouble, before choosing Ducktor Doom.
Cates settled on Thanos, “because he makes some compelling points.” Cates then stopped and added that Thanos is often right, but not in Infinity War.

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